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Coaching Job Seekers to Leverage Their Networks

When most job seekers hear the word “networking” they automatically think “What can I get my network contact to do for me?”  From my experience, that is not only the wrong way to approach networking, it is backwards.

Let me give you a very recent example of the right way to use your network.  Four weeks ago I was teaching a Job & Career Transition Coach certification workshop to two dozen workforce development specialists.  During that course, I described what I thought to be the best way to to “use” your network.  During a lunch break I was talking with a student whose husband was retired from the military.  I mentioned that I was also retired from the military and consequently received my prescription drugs from a military hospital that was over 100 miles from my home.  The student indicated that it might be more easier for me to fill my prescriptions by mail.  I replied that I had never ordered my drugs by that method, but it sounded like a good idea.  End of conversation.

Last week I received a letter from the student that contained the usual thank you for presenting the workshop.  But, it also included a three page flyer on the prescriptions-by-mail program as well as an order form.  In her letter, she did not ask me for anything.  Rather, she remembered something from our brief conversation and sent me information related to my need.  I will remember her because she did something for me without asking for something in return.  If I run into anything that would be of benefit to a member of that class, whose name do you think would come to my mind first?

Here is another, more typical example of a network communication.  Several years ago, as a favor to a friend, I met with her son who was a high school physics teacher who wanted to move to teaching at the community college level.  About four weeks after our meeting, I received a letter from the teacher that went something like the following:

“Dear Mr.Knowdell, thank you for meeting with me last month and giving me excellent advice.  I followed your suggestions and visited San Jose City and Foothill Colleges and met with the science department secretaries at both.  There is a good chance of a part time opening at City College next semester and I left my resume there.  I have scheduled meetings with the physics chairs at both DeAnza and West Valley Colleges next week and will keep you posted on my progress.”

“I couldn’t help but notice the “Far Side” screen saver on your computer when I was in your office.  I don’t know if you have seen Gary Larson’s last Far Side cartoon or not, so I have attached it”
(The cartoon was attached to the letter).

“Thank you again for your help”.

Notice that in the letter Tom did the following:

(1)  He thanked me for my help.

(2)  He told me how he had acted on my advice.

(3)  He told me what he would do next.

(4)  He noticed something personal about me (I like Gary Larson cartoons).

(5)  He “rewarded” me (by attaching the cartoon to his letter)

(6)  Finally, he thanked me again.

If you want to be successful at networking, instead of looking for what people can do for you, look for what you can do for them.

© Richard Knowdell, National Certified Career Counselor trains and certifies Job & Career Transition Coaches.  He can be contacted at

 Richard Knowdell
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